This book is an ecological and cultural history of the Asian elephant and is the first single volume to comprehensively cover the history of Asia's elephants, profusely illustrated with images of the elephant in art from ancient to contemporary times, offering new interpretations, and drawing upon a wide range of literary texts.
The volume begins with an account of the ancient origins of the Asian elephant and its possible relationship with early humans, leading eventually to its taming between 4,500 and 5,000 years ago in the Harappan period. Subsequent chapters trace the story of the elephant under the major religious establishments – Vedic, Buddhist and Jain, post-1st century Hindu, and Islamic – of the Indian subcontinent and beyond. Further chapters discuss the fortunes of the elephant under colonial rulers in Asia, and the post-independence history of the animal in 13 range countries. The final chapter summarizes the latest scientific knowledge of the elephant's ecology and behaviour, and conservation concerns.